"Jack-o-lantern," in actuality, is short for "Jack of the Lantern." By some accounts, Jack was an Irish beggar; by others a traveling con artist, but in all versions of this story Jack was a man too clever for his own good. Through trickery or misadventure (again, depending on who tells the story), Jack finds himself in need of The Devil's assistance. After striking a deal with the Foul Deceiver, The Devil helps Jack escape his predicament, only to find that Jack has used a cross to affix The Devil in place.
In desperation, The Devil makes Jack another deal: Jack's soul will be officially off-limits to The Devil or any of his demonic brood, forever and ever, but only if Jack removes the cross and releases him. Figuring that he's found a solid and infallible way to circumvent his eventual damnation, Jack obliges The Devil and lets him on his way.
Now, this is where the various variations of this story converge: Jack continues about his lecherous, wanton ways and eventually meets his untimely end, as all drunken vagabonds do. Upon reaching the gates of Heaven, Jack discovers that his sinful existence has invalidated his chances for eternal salvation, and as such he is not allowed entrance into paradise.
Not wanting to spend eternity between existences, Jack ventures to the gates of Hell, where he learns that his previous bargain with The Devil prevents him from entering there as well. Invariably, Jack asks The Devil how he will possibly navigate the dark spectral world that he has been left to, to which The Devil replies by tossing an ever-burning ember through the gates of Hell.
Jack collects the ember and uses it to illuminate a crude lantern made from a hollowed out turnip, forever doomed to wander the dark between life and death as Jack of the Lantern.
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